The ultimate guide to conservatory designs, styles and ideas

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To help you in your search for the perfect conservatory, we have put together a comprehensive guide to the types of conservatory designs in the market.

By having a broad knowledge of the different names, appearances and major features of the most popular conservatories, it can really help you to come to decision as to which type of conservatory suits your home (and budget) the best.

Where do I start?

With such a wide range of choice, a good place to start would probably be to consider these 3 things at outset:

  1. What do I want to use the conservatory for?
  2. How much room do I have to build a conservatory (or how much room will I have left after it’s built)?
  3. How much money am I comfortable in spending on the finished project?

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Conservatory TypesRoof OptionsBudget & Pricing

What do I want the conservatory for?

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If you just want it for some extra storage space, or some horticultural activity, then you are looking at one of the more simple, small cheap conservatory types with no frills – maybe even a single glazed DIY model.

But once you are going to use it for any type of living space, then you need to consider a higher quality build. So many homes have unused conservatories because they did not consider how hot or how cold they can get if you don’t take the time to consider “livability”.

If you want a family room that can be used at any time of the year, then you have to give a lot more consideration to construction materials (frames, roof & glazing). A typical small conservatory would be around 3 x 3 meters in size. Lean-to conservatories suit this size particularly well.

If you want something a little larger to enjoy a good living or dining area, then this is where you may find it worthwhile looking at Gable, Edwardian or Georgian conservatories.

Where you are in the frame of mind to make a grand statement with an impressive living space, then this is where Orangeries can fit the bill. Imposing, unique and certainly impressive, Orangeries are the ultimate bespoke conservatory, but have a decent budget at hand because they don’t come cheap.

How much room do I have to build?

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There are 2 or 3 aspects to consider here. The first as per the title, "how much room do I have" and, as a consequence of that, how much of your garden will be remaining for you to enjoy after you have built it.

If you have loads of room to spare this may not be such an important factor. But for those of you who don't, then you could end up compromising on one aspect or the other. You might want a big room, but is it worth sacrificing a large proportion of your garden to build it?

One other point that could be worthy of note here is with regard to planning permission. A small to medium size conservatory can usually be built without the need for planning permission, but there is a rule that says:

  • No more than half the area of land around the "original house"* would be covered by additions or other buildings.

This includes anything that has already been built. So if you breach this rule, then you will need to apply.

You also need to be aware that the conservatory should not extend more than 3m for a semi & 4m for a detached in order to be within the permitted development rules.

Budgeting & Pricing Factors For Conservatories

How much money should I spend?

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How much you spend on your new conservatory or orangery is clearly going to be a personal matter, but in terms of "getting value for money" there are probably two completely different factors at work here:

  1. Financial value for money - getting a monetary return on your investment.
  2. Lifestyle value for money -  how much the conservatory improves your family life.

The first one is the simpler to quantify.

There is more than one reputable source that will put a value on what a good conservatory will add in resale value to a house - and that value varies between 7% to 10% .

Given that the government estimate the average value of a house for the whole of the UK in January 2017 was £234,794, and a whopping £490,718 in London, that would allow a "spend threshold" of between £15,000 and £21,000 ( £34,000 to £49,000 in London) to build a conservatory and still make a financial return on your investment.

The second, as they say in that credit card advert, is priceless.

Prices do vary a lot from style to style and even regionally across the UK, so it is difficult to get accurate estimates (sorry for the Oxymoron). However, we have collected a wide range of average conservatory costs that you can read more about by visiting this page.

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What things affect conservatory prices?

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Its pretty obvious that the biggest factors in pricing for conservatories are the size of the room and the design style. But within those major contributes to cost are a number of other relevant points to consider.

  • Material - timber, uPVC & aluminium have their own price ranges for any given type of room.
  • Glazing - the energy rating of the glazed unit is identified by the WER label, with higher rated units costing more (usually).
  • Foundations - how much work needs to be done can make a big difference in costs.
  • Roofing - poly-carbonate at lower end prices, solid tiled conservatory roofs at the other, glass somewhere in between.
  • Conservatory doors - a simple set of French doors is going to cost less than a big wide set of panoramic bifold doors.
  • Flooring - tiles, wood, synthetic laminates all have different pricing.
  • Heat & Light - if you want power sockets everywhere, with fancy lighting and underfloor heating, it doesn't come free!

You could also find seasonal adjustments. When everyone is busy, the installers may not be inclined to discount, but the reverse could be true during "off-peak" periods.

There is also a constant debate about whether local or National big name companies give the best deals - the best way to find out is to get quotes from many suppliers and compare what's on offer (then haggle!).

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Conservatory Roofing & Foundations

Types of Conservatory Foundations

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What you put underneath your conservatory is extremely important. If you don't have a well constructed base then your conservatory could distort & crack or even worse, collapse.

What are your choices for conservatory foundations?

  1.  For a very small, lightweight "greenhouse" type of room, you could just clear the top solid down to solid ground and lay hardcore gravel. The hardcore would need to be thoroughly compacted.
  2. You could use a concrete slab for small to medium size conservatories. Similar to point #1, this slab would need to be cast on top of a hardcore base.
  3.  Strip or trench footings are the type that usually go under your house. A tried and trusted method of supporting any size conservatory.
  4. Pre-fabricated steel bases are a ready-made platform that is supported by concrete plinths. The advantage of this system over trench footings is that there is very little digging to do.

Of the 4 options, clearly #1 is going to be the cheapest, but restrict the size of room you can build on it.

Strip foundations are the costliest with pre-fab steel bases being somewhere in the middle in terms of cost.

Types of Conservatory Roofing

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There are a few options when it comes to "topping off" your conservatory and the difference in cost of each option can be quite significant. However, your main choices are:

  1. Poly-carbonate - a lightweight cellular "plastic" sheeting that offers basic weather protection
  2. Full Glass - usually made from double glazed sealed units that offer good weather proofing and "solar control"
  3. Solid roof - options for concrete tiles, slate tiles or synthetic tiling. Slates, especially the synthetic ones, look great and are lighter than concert tiles
  4. Composite panels - similar to what is used for a composite door, these panels are made from insulated GRP (same as a car fender).

Poly-carbonate is for sure the lowest cost option. However, many people complain that it lets to much heat through and that it can be very noisy during heavy rain. At the other end of the price scale, you have fully tiled roofing which can be pricier, but with much better insulation & heat control.

Read more about roofing here and Glass Conservatories here.

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